November 26, 2013

Alternative Education: Intro to Waldorf Education

Ever heard of Waldorf Education? 
I'm very interested in Waldorf Education and after reading a great book written by a teacher and social worker, Simplicity Parenting. This is an alternative school to public schools, but I just use some of the philosophy in combination with my other thoughts and ideas.

So this post is about my thoughts about this Waldorf Education approach. But first I thought I'd start with this funny list...

You Might Be a Waldorf Mama/Papa If You... (I'm going to keep adding to this, btw)
  • think there is no such thing as boredom
  • have an insatiable appetite for learning and growth
  • love rocks, trees, dirt, etc. more than something you can buy in a store
  • gardening is essential for your children to learn
  • love simple experiments using what you can find in nature
  • don't own a tv
  • think learning is a holistic endeavor (with their head, heart, hands, etc.)
  • find you eat, dress, do...according to the seasons
  • the "calendar in your head" comes to mind from one holiday to the next
  • think play time may have an inverse relationship to toy quantity (deep play with one)
  • your toy shelf does not look like toy store's shelves at Christmas time, but rather has a few simple favorites: something homemade, wood blocks, etc.
  • think teaching your 7 year old child to knit is as important as teaching him or her to read
  • think imagination is the fuel of greatness and are ok with gnomes and fairies

So, What is Waldorf Education?

Wiki-pedia says... (click link to read more details, and I've added a few of my notes below too)
Waldorf (Steinereducation is a humanistic approach to pedagogy based on the educational philosophy of the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner. Waldorf education is the largest independent alternative education movement in the world.[6] In central Europe, where most of the schools are located,[1] the Waldorf approach has achieved general acceptance as a model of alternative education.[7][8] Waldorf education has influenced mainstream education in Europe[9] and Waldorf schools and teacher training programs are funded through the state in many European countries. 
Public funding of Waldorf schools in some English speaking countries has been controversial, with questions being raised about the role of religious and spiritual content in or underlying the curriculum, and whether the science curriculum, which has achieved notable results, also includes pseudoscience and/or promotes homeopathy.  
The first Waldorf school was founded in 1919 in Stuttgart, Germany. At present there are 1,026 independent Waldorf schools,[1] 2,000 kindergartens[2] and 646 centers for special education,[3] located in 60 countries. There are also Waldorf-based state schools,[4] charter schools and academies, and homeschooling[5]environments.

The educational philosophy's overarching goal is to develop freemorally responsible, and integrated individuals equipped with a high degree of social competence. Teachers generally use formative (qualitative) rather than summative (quantitative) assessment methods (which means no letter grades), particularly in the pre-adolescent years. The schools have a high degree of autonomy to decide how best to construct their curricula and govern themselves. The approach stresses the role of the imagination in learning and places a strong value on integrating academic, practical and artistic pursuits.

The developmental approach used in the Waldorf schools is designed to awaken – and ideally balance – the "physical, behavioral, emotional, cognitive, social, and spiritual" aspects of the developing person,[28] developing thinking that includes a creative as well as an analytic component.[28]:28 A 2005 overview of research studies suggested that Waldorf schools successfully develop "creative, social and other capabilities important in the holistic growth of the person," but that more research is needed to confirm the generally small scale studies conducted to date.[28]:39
Three broad stages in child development: (though there are sub-stages too)
  1. The early years (0-7) children primarily learn through empathy, imitating their environment, and Waldorf pre-schools and kindergartens therefore stimulate pupils' desire to engage with the world by offering a range of practical activities.[33] The educator's task is to present worthwhile models of action.[11]:389 Children are also given daily opportunities for creative, imaginative play.[34] The early years education seeks to imbue the child with a sense that the world is good.[35]
  2. Second Stage (7-14) children primarily learn through presentations and activities appealing to their feelings and imagination. Story-telling and artistic work are used to convey and depict academic content so students can connect more deeply with the subject matter. The educator's task is to present a role model children will naturally want to follow, gaining authority through fostering rapport. The elementary years education seeks to imbue children with a sense that the world is beautiful.[35]
  3. Third Stage (14+) children primarily learn through their own thinking and judgment.[36] They are asked to understand abstract material and are expected to have sufficient foundation and maturity to form conclusions using their own judgment.[11]:391 The secondary years education seeks to imbue children with a sense that the world is true.[35]
Here is another lady's list she compiled that I took note of from a lecture I heard:
Top 10 Benefits of Waldorf Education
1. Nurtures Whole Child
2. Multi-cultural, World
3. Learn through arts: stories, songs, nature, etc.
4. Curriculum follows child's development (7 year cycle)
5. Gives rhythm and rituals
6. Prepares child for Life and life-skills (not just career/job-specific areas)
7. Fosters individuality, independence and problem-solving
8. Creates a sense of personal and social responsibility
9. Elevates confidence and self-esteem
10. Creates love for learning
Here is a video introduction about it.

Things I've noticed they do:
  • celebrate other cultures, holidays and festivals as a major part of their curriculum
  • value nature: eat whole foods, use raw materials to make crafts and for their environment, even gardening as class "work"/play and using outdoor classroom time regularly
  • feel rhythm is important in how they celebrate seasons and in daily routines so there is flow
  • emphasize virtues and positive character attributes
  • value community and sharing
  • use story and song in everything to bring life and animation to what could be mundane in public school
  • teachers continue with their students through the grades 1-8 to grow together
  • don't teach letters and math the same way: letters come later and more as an art, while math is taught as whole-to-part (frequently with division and multiplication right along with addition and subtraction--seems more holistic and totally makes sense--from an intuitive math-lover like me!)
  • encourage imagination and rarely have exact crafts to imitate
  • there are no textbooks. Students create their own Main Lesson Books of learning to summarize concepts for themselves.
  • example of main lesson book page: Student summarizes and artistically represents lesson  from
I found this great curriculum chart if you want to get a feel for how they break down learning by stage...

Other Posts about Waldorf:
Why Waldorf Works: from a Neuroscientific Perspective
14 Ways to Incorporate Waldorf into you Home
Waldorf Fosters Multiple Intelligences

If you think you're interested, there is a Utah Waldorf facebook group where like minded people can learn from each other. And a Waldorf Utah Homeschoolers, if you are in Utah. People post helpful information, waldorf blogs, etc. or you can ask questions there. They also share and create local events for homeschoolers or community members varying from festivals, to story-telling conferences, to farm tours, to basket weaving classes, etc. It is not just for those that attend Waldorf groups/schools. And they are currently getting a charter to open an official school in Utah in 2016 for those that don't homeschool. Help join the effort, or at least find out more. 

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